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Archive for the ‘On-Disk.com’ Category

Gearing up for FSOSS

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This morning I received my speakers packet for the Free Software and Open Source Symposium taking place at Seneca College in Toronto in a couple of weeks. 

For those of you feeling the vacuum that the Ontario GNU/Linux Fest left, this might be a good alternative for you. 

Just be aware that early-bird registration ends October 8 and it’s a significant discount.  Especially for Students!  

As far as the feel of the two conferences…. I won’t pretend that OGLF and FSOSS occupied the same niche, because they always catered to a slightly diffrent audiences.  OGLF was more of a user conference and FSOSS is geared at academic use and leading edge development. 

That’s not to say that all the topics covered at Seneca are advanced, or that topics at OGLF didn’t meet the needs of hard-core hackers.  It’s just that the topics are focused on a slightly different area of the spectrum that is Open Source. 

In any case, if you’re looking for a nice little conference in a great city, I’d highly recommend registering for FSOSS. 

Written by Karlie

October 7th, 2010 at 7:48 am

Re: Have you seen this?

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On 07/10/2010 09:54 PM, D. S. wrote:

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=microsoft-imagine-cup

No I hadn’t seen it yet, but MS is losing ground to companies like Google and their “Don’t be Evil” stance on business. So how does a company become less evil? They start finding projects for the good of the order and shout it from the rooftops every time they do something that’s even a little bit generous.

It’s actually very cleaver of them from a marketing point of view. They know that they still have market and mind share and while the majority of their clientele isn’t looking at FOSS, they’re adopting some FOSS like programs to soften up their image.

The biggest thing to consider is the basics of business. Throwing money at a problem isn’t usually an effective solution. Yes, MS has lots and lots of money to solve problems with, but FOSS has enough momentum now that no matter what MS does they can’t regain the ground they’ve lost. Their only hope is to slow the exodus now that there is a public awareness of alternatives and that the choices aren’t half bad.

My best advice – remember there is choice. When things like this come up, remind people that the HFOSS project has been doing this same thing for a while now. When MS wants to talk Education, bring up OLPC and such. Yes, it’s good that they’re putting money to good use, but they didn’t invent some of these ideas, nor are they the only players on the field.

It no longer has to be about how FOSS is like commercial, but it can be about how commercial has to be like FOSS and behave like human beings to remain relevant in the changing tech environment.

~Karlie

Written by Karlie

July 11th, 2010 at 10:30 am

Week 1, Pontiac MI

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One harsh reality of On-Disk.com is that while ISOs are fresh, business is booming. But, 3 months after a release, those who wanted the latest and greatest the Linux world has to offer probably have it. Then after about 4 months, those who haven’t gotten it will most likely wait a couple of months and get the next release.

This August, however, I will be giving a talk at LinuxCon. Yes, it’s going to be a fun time in a great city, but by then it’s past the 4 month mark and we won’t have lots of extra money to spend on the trip.

A solution to our slow summer months presented itself this year with some casual employment as a corporate trainer with Eagle Productivity Solutions.

While I knew I’d be jetting off to some US City to deliver the training, I didn’t expect;

  • for my first week on the road that I’d be in Pontiac MI.
  • that a very recent Twitter follower would be on the Michigan!/usr/groupboard.
  • the MUG meeting would fall on my off night between my two training sessions.
  • to talk a few minutes about my role as a community hacker.

I didn’t have anything prepared, in fact, I can confidently say I was the only person in the room who opted to pack a lipstick rather than a laptop.

The talk was very casual. A bit about how I got into FOSS, and how someone who avoids the terminal window at all cost could be qualified to give a talk to hard core Unix and Linux users.

But I think I got my point across. That point of course being that the community is key. Using is one thing, but involvement is a whole other ball of wax.

I suppose the most important thing that came out of the talk was a question from a member asking “how do you/I/we get involved?”

My answer was to take these notions that someone should do something – about anything really – and take 10 seconds to seriously consider being that someone. No one would hold their feet to the fire if they opted out of helping, but if they could get into the habit of weighing the pros and cons of involvement, they might find something to become passionate about.

There are a lot of needs and a lot of really good projects out there that do so much more than pump out fresh ISOs. The best part is that at this point it’s not just grand ideas. There are functioning groups out there so I did talk a little about TeachingOpenSource.org and the Math4 project class that has spawned FOSS@RIT and the chain of events that those projects lead to.

Most importantly, I tried to show how little ideas and passionate people help bring FOSS out to those who can benefit from open code.

Written by Karlie

June 21st, 2010 at 7:46 am

Why was it me?

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Before you get the wrong idea, I’m not having a pity party here in my blog. Instead, “Why me?” is sort of the basis for a series of rhetorical questions I’ve been processing this morning.

This morning I received an email saying that John Resig, creator of JQuery is going to visit RIT this week. I’m excited to meet him and am sure that our FOSS mixer Thursday evening in the Innovations center is going to have a nice mix of people. (Visit the Facebook Event for details)

The other thing the email reminded reminded me of is a trend I’ve been seeing in little bits and pieces over the past year or so… That RIT has some very talented alumni that have gone on to be leaders in the FOSS Community.

So the question I’m struggling with this morning, is why me? Why didn’t the ball get rolling for RIT to Teach Open Source Development techniques until I helped push it? I don’t doubt that RIT would have formalized it’s FOSS development coursework at some point, but why did the push have to come from me when there could have been so many others leading the charge?

People who not only had more clout in the FOSS community, but connections at RIT.

To clarify, I’m not a student at RIT. I’m not on staff at RIT. The FOSS community isn’t waiting with baited breath to hear what I might say next, so, again, why was my participation a key component?

Question Mark Icon by Svilen Milev

Written by Karlie

April 24th, 2010 at 11:08 am

Please Donate to Interlock Rochester

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Interlock Rochester is a Hackerspace in Rochester, NY. They provide an open, collaborative environment for technologists and artists to work on projects and “hack” on cool things.

If you’re interested in learning about new technologies, refactoring existing technologies, and stretching the limits of collaborative thinking and creative making, Interlock Rochester is the right place. And they need your help.

Click here to lend your support to: Interlock Rochester and make a donation at www.pledgie.com !

Written by Karlie

April 13th, 2010 at 10:26 am

A Disc full of Sugar helps the FOSS go down

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Tonight is Open House at TJ Conner Elementary and I sent a special disc to school for the families.

As you may recall, I’ve been taking an XO to my son’s first grade class on Wednesday mornings. The record activity has been extremely popular and Mrs. Richmond asked if she could show the pictures at Open House tonight.

Of course I said yes, but did one better and offered to make discs for everyone in the class so they could all have a copy.

The best part is, that even with all 200+ pictures the students have taken, there would still be hundreds of megs of space left on the discs…. Also known as plenty of space to include a Sugar Spin. (for this disc we used the current version of SoaS but applied it to optical media instead of Solid State)

So while the families might also be getting the pictures of their children, they’re also getting a chance to use some open source software at home.

I did include this letter (Click to see a larger version) covering the very basics. Although it might not totally explain the Live CD I hope the combination of the children being famililar with the Sugar environment and the vagueness of what they’re getting will get a few families exploring Open Source Educational Technologies.

Written by Karlie

March 18th, 2010 at 7:15 am

Dinner with RMS – the Great Freedom Debate

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I was lucky enough to be invited to join Steve Jacobs and Richard Stallman for dinner, Tuesday night. If I said I was honored to be included that would be an understatement.

But what does one talk about with the father of the Free Software Movement?

Freedom of course!

While this post will read as if we had a long and fruitful debate, the truth is I changed the subject when I realized that he was unbending and not willing to accept any observations other than his own. So my observation that there is a hypocritical element to his position was getting nowhere fast.

Steve tried to interject for clarification since we were discussing such a small nuance to “freedom” but even that was met with inflexibility. In fact he repeated his wording exactly as he had before Steve’s question.

Here’s the issue as I see it…

Freedom is an inalienable right. I also believe wholeheartedly that if you have a restriction of any kind you don’t have true freedom.

I also understand that true freedom is rare and elusive. Laws, taxes, social mores and such are all limiting factors. You can have some freedoms, like the freedom of speech, but I also don’t believe the US is a Free country when there are so many questionable laws still on the books (yes, Patriot act, I’m talking about you and your sleezy friends!)

You should also understand that I’m all for of some laws and mores. For instance, when we all know what side of the street to drive on, its good for everyone. You would also misunderstand this blog post if you come away thinking that I dislike the GPL and/or the Free Software Movement. The fact is I’m a fan and have deep respect for the movement as a whole.

However, my side of the debate focused on copyleft, and the GPLs Share Alike clauses and Stallman’s penchant for term correctness.

As I see it, if you’re going to explain to a crowded room that you can’t…

… call something piracy because it didn’t attack any boats;
… use the term “Intellectual Property” because it refers to multiple laws;
… call an Operating system Linux because the Linux Kernel wasn’t fully effective without the rest of the GNU operating system and vice versa…

Then you must absolutely be certain that you’re not acting hypocritically when it comes to the use of the term “Freedom.”

For me, the question is, how can software really be “free, as in Freedom” when there are restrictions built into it’s license?

Stallman’s stance is that he respects your freedom, but in return you must respect the freedom of others. Then he explained that share alike/copyleft clauses needed to be included because he didn’t want to lose ground. To open up a code base only to have it taken away again isn’t an acceptable situation.

I say that’s a risk you have to take if you’re going to insist that what you’re trying to do is make all software free.

Freedom always comes with a choice. When you have good information and care about the outcomes, you always make the right decision for you. Besides, if information or desired outcomes change, you always have the option to make new choices.

So if you’re to ask for a simple clarification – the Four Essential Freedoms outlined in the Free Software definition do define freedom. However this Free software definition points out that there’s a flaw in copyleft when it states,

“For example, copyleft (very simply stated) is the rule that when redistributing the program, you cannot add restrictions to deny other people the central freedoms. This rule does not conflict with the central freedoms; rather it protects them.”

It’s cleverly written and on quick glance you think “oh it’s about not adding restrictions, that’s Kosher.” But it brings you back to reality when you see that it’s a rule (aka restriction) that needs to be clarified in the second sentence of the quote.

Conflict or not, rules are restrictions and restrictions limit freedom.

Am I the only one seeing this as wordplay and a form of restricting Freedom?

~Karlie

Image “Freedom” By ivan petrov

Written by Karlie

February 25th, 2010 at 11:49 am

Richard Stallman and Free Software at RIT

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Yesterday, RIT hosted Richard Stallman and I have to say it was not nearly as odd as I had set myself up for.

The main issue is that RMS’s reputation as a bit of an eccentric precedes him and that can be a bit of a turn off even for those of us who are somewhat familiar with the whole idea of freedom in computing.

Though to be fair to those who are thinking – “Not odd, then why is that the only picture you have of him?” The image you’re seeing here is the Emacs Saint costume that was brought out at the end.

There was video taken of the event and I’m tracking down when and where it will be made available for everyone to see.

For me the best part of the talk was that there seemed to be a fairly diverse crowd. Those, like myself, who are already familar with the ideas of GNU and Libre software and those who were brand new to the ideas presented.

He even covered all the goodies like students getting access to low/no cost Proprietary software. Because it’s like your first hit of crack being free and making you pay once you’re hooked.

All in all it was a very good talk and I’m sure it hit home with many of the students and staff in attendance. I also hope that it will be the begining of even more free software development and usage at RIT.

Since my son will be home from school shortly and I have an errand to run this afternoon, I’ll talk a little bit about my dinner with Stallman in a Part 2 post.

~Karlie

Written by Karlie

February 24th, 2010 at 11:02 am

First Graders and XO Photo Retrieval Woes

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Every Wednesday morning, I volunteer in my son’s first grade class. You could describe my duties as crowd control. As Mrs. Richmond works with small groups of children on their reading skills, I’m keeping an eye on everyone else.

Some children are writing in their journals. Others are working on handwriting or reading along to a picture book at the CD player. 3 kids also get to go to the computers.

Problem is, only 2 of the Macs in the room are working properly. The 3rd just won’t boot and I don’t know enough about them to trouble shoot. Plus the School’s IT department probably wouldn’t be too happy with me if I did.

A few months ago I came to school with an XO laptop so when 3 kids were working in that “Center” they could use a computer if they wanted to.

As you can imagine, the XO has been a big hit in the classroom. We started out playing Speak, but the kids have been exploring and have also discovered the Record Activity and I’ve finally managed to get at the pictures.

Why have I “Finally Managed?” Well because it was a giant PITA to get the pictures off the XO.

You can use Flickr’s basic uploader to capture 6 images at a time. Fine if there were just a few, but with 180+ images on the XO and most of them named “Photo by Karlie” it was more than a waste of time trying that route.

Method 2 was plugging in a USB or SD card and moving the files. Equally painful especially since keeping track of which “Photo by Karlie” was moved and every image transferred was appended with an underscore and series of numbers. How’s that bad? Well the 15th image I moved was appended with _1_2_3_4_5_6_7_8_9_10_11_12_13_14_15

Method 3 was right up there with knowing the secret handshake. Lucky for me, Mel Chua is in the club and showed us where to grab every file from the XO’s Journal. It’s /home/olpc/.sugar/default/datastore/store in case you’re wondering. But you’ll still need to use the terminal to transfer the files.

This method still had it’s draw backs, but turned out to be the least annoying.

For one, every file has a seemingly random name assigned to it and no extension to sort by. However, once the files were transferred to USB, Fedora was smart enough to see pictures even though none had .png or.jpg extension.

To upload to Flickr though, they’d all need their appropriate extension. Easy enough to fix, but again, so down right annoying that you’d even have to include this step. While I’m told you can do a batch update, I hate the terminal so it was faster for me to ctrl+v .jpg and rename the files one by one (vs learning the commands).

~Karlie

PS, I’ve left full Copyright intact on these pictures. While we don’t have names or other details on the images, they’re still 6 year-olds and that brings a certain amount of restrictions as to their use. If you’d like to use them for something, ping me and we’ll discuss it.

Written by Karlie

February 16th, 2010 at 11:05 am

Public Software Rides Again? – Maybe

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A couple of years ago, Todd and I started a little side project called the Public Software Foundation. But like lots of good intentions, it didn’t quite make it off the ground.

It’s not that we didn’t give it our all, we just couldn’t sustain an altruistic side project as the economy was beginning to tank. After all, there are little men with big appetites around here.

A few days ago I was being my normal busy body self and butted into an IRC conversation on #TeachingOpenSource and ended up blabbering about PSF even though the site had been down for who knows how long.

Well it’s back up now due to that initial conversation and I’m wondering what you think about a project like the Public Software Foundation?

I’d appreciate it if you’d take a look around and give me your feedback.

~Karlie

Written by Karlie

February 4th, 2010 at 10:51 am